1. The first known case of a ‘Polish’ company in India was not really Polish and we would not want to perceive it as a symbol of our economic relations. In 1730, the British and Dutch forces seized two ships in the Bengal of Bay. Both officially belonged to a Polish ‘West and East Indies Company’ (Kompanja Indyj Zachodnich i Wschodnich). As it turned out, the trade mission of those ships was really a joint Austro-Belgian enterprise that had used the Polish flag to bypass the British-Dutch monopoly. We would not like to repeat anything that happened in that story: the ‘brand’ of Poland was used by other nations and entrepreneurs (with, so it seems, Polish approval) and the only result it yielded for our country was shame. Obviously, Poland prefers to promote its own companies and hopes that they will be successful. Moreover, judging by the later history, we are happy that we did not have such an East India Company which would take part in the conquestof South Asia.
2. The first known, genuinely Polish endeavour to enter the Indian market is the Bank of Poland mission of 1829 (when neither Poland nor India were free). A ship containing zinc and other materials was sent to Calcutta, but no lasting trade relation was eventually established. The other Pole that took to trade in India was Franciszek Szymański at the end of the 19th century.
3. The consulate of the Republic of Poland in Bombay (now Mumbai) was established in 1933. A trade agreement had been signed two years earlier. This means that Poland had a diplomatic mission in India before the latter even gained independence. One of the mission’s primary goals was to promote Indo-Polish trade. There was also an honorary consul in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Just like in the recent years, in the trade of that time Indian exports to Poland were larger than Polish exports to India. As of 1937 Poland mainly sold products of its agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, metals and metal products (including zinc, which Poland had first tried to sell to Indians more than a century earlier), ham, textiles, wood and wooden products, paper and paper products and a number other commodities. Things imported from India included predominantly rice, jute and cotton, and beside this spices, tea, coffee, medicinal plants and seeds of few other plants (like sesame), chrome and manganese ores, natural rubber, talc and other goods. The total volume of the export to India in 1930s was considered to be unimpressive, but on the other hand it was a bigger part of Poland’s total exports than it is now (compare with data in paragraph 5). In 1937 it constituted 2.2% of Poland’s total exports.
4. The cooperation developed in the decades after the war, when the two countries had established their ties in 1954 as the Republic of India and Polish People’s Republic and found themselves on similar political and ideological positions. In that time one of the important Polish products sold to India were Gdynia dockyard-produced ships as well as ship engines. Of these, a few landing ships, of B-561 and Project 773-U (Północny-D) types, are still in service in the Indian navy. Tanks, armoured transporters and armoured recovery vehicles were also sold. Another work of Polish technology sent to India were the TS-11 Iskra (‘Spark’) trainer aircrafts. In the Communist period Poland also played an important part in the development of India’s heavy industry, contributing to the establishment of power plants, coal mines and manufacturing facilities. A tractor factory and a motorcycle factory, both following Polish technology on a licence, were also established. The export of Polish military technology dropped after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc, and the export of Polish commodities as such was hit by the change in the system of financial exchange in 1990s. The volume of trade went up again in 2000s. As for Polish investment in India and Indian investment in Poland, it happened mostly throughout the last ten years, after both nations liberalized their economies in 1990s (cf. data in paragraphs 6 and 9).
5. Poland’s exports to India were worth 298.6 million USD in 2008, 337.4 in 2009, 339 in 2010, 524 in 2011, 666 in 2012, 524 in 2013 (according to the Ministry of Economy and Embassy of the Republic of Poland in India data). As a part of Poland’s total export these numbers are not very significant (in the last few years the export to India was never more than 0.5% of Poland’s total export). Since many years, Poland’s export to India is dominated by electromechanical, metallurgical and chemical products, as well as plastic materials. Some of the companies selling their produce to India in the last ten years were Fabryka Papieru Myszków (The Myszków Paper Factory), Inglot (cosmetics), Komandor (furniture), Rafako (pulverised fuel fired boilers), LCGC Radwag (digital weighing scales) and Zamet Budowa Maszyn (part of Zamet Industry). One could also add that Sobieski is one of the new vodka brands available in India. One can also try the Okocim Palone beer in India, but the taste will be different – it is a beer of the same name and owned by the same company, but produced in India. India’s exports to Poland amounted to 976.1 million USD in 2008, 803.7 in 2009, 987.5 in 2010, 1.350 billion in 2011, 1.244 billion in 2012 and 1.465 billion in 2013. That export is dominated by textiles and chemical products. The Polish branch of the Japanese company Marubeni Motors entered a tie-up with Tata Motors, which resulted in importing Tata cars to Poland since 2007, but that did not yield much results and was halted 4 years later.
6. Polish investment in India occurred mainly in 2000s, in the south and the west of the country. In the south VTS sells AC systems in Bangalore (Karnataka), Polmor manufactures welded structures in Hyderabad (erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, now Telangana), and Toruńskie Zakłady Materiałów Opatrunkowych, via its Bella India subsidiary, run sanitary products factory in Dindigul district (Tamil Nadu, opened in 2005). In the west Maflow opened an air conditioning tubes factory in Pune in 2014 while Can Pack, following the 2008 agreement with the government of Maharashtra, introduced Poland’s biggest investment in India, opening an aluminium can factory, and then a glass bottle producing unit in Aurangabad, India’s hub of beer production. Another company that entered the Indian market in 2010 and expanded in 2012 was SECO/Warwick (which now runs a furnace factory near Mumbai in Maharashtra, also in the west of India). In comparative perspective, Polish investment in India may seem unimpressive. In the period of 2002-2009 it amounted to 28.02 billion USD, which constituted 3% of the total foreign investment in India in these years.
7. Polish people are considered to be blessed with good technological thinking and to a developing country like India, Poland can clearly offer much in terms of technological abilities and products. Already in 1930s a Polish Katowice-based company built a hydroelectric station near Ootacamund (then in Madras Presidency, now Tamil Nadu). In the same decade a Polish Jew, Maurycy Frydman, better known for his other and later activities and his friendship with Gandhi, came to India to take part in establishing a factory in Mysore. Throughout the Communist period and in the 1990s, Elektrim sold and established electric equipment in many power plants in India, including the grand state projects in Bokaro (then Bihar, now Jharkhand) and Durgapur (West Bengal). Since 1984 Geofizyka Toruń has been conducting seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration in various regions of India for companies as big as Reliance or state-run ONGC. A similar case is that of NAFTA Piła (Poszukiwanie Gazu i Nafty Piła, Grupa PGNIG) which in search of gas and oil started to drill in Gujarat in 2007. A few years ago Amul, one of the leading dairy companies in India, purchased a technological line to produce paneer (Indian cottage cheese) from Polish OBRAM. Following a 2009 agreement, The Puławy-based Zakłady Azotowe, together with the Industrial Chemistry Research Institute in Warsaw and ENCO Engineering in Switzerland, helped modernising a GSFC plant in Vadodara (Gujarat).
8. The best known cases of Polish technologies being sold to India or of Indian machines being modernised with Polish help are to be found in the area of defence equipment. This is hardly surprising, taking into consideration that Warsaw sold defence sector products to New Delhi already in the Communist era and that both countries had been receiving Soviet technology for a long time. Many devices and vehicles in the Indian and Polish army are still compatible and the modernization applied in one of the militaries can be often transplanted to the other. In this way the Poles modernised Indian T-72 tanks. A company called Cenzin used to sell military equipment to India. The biggest economic tie of this kind is the selling of armoured recovery vehicles to India by the Bumar company (now called Polski Holding Obronny), which started already in the Communist period and, if certain difficulties will be overcome, will be continued in the years to come. In 2010 OBRUM (Ośrodek Badawczo-Rozwojowy Urządzeń Mechanicznych, also part of Polski Holding Obronny) signed a deal with Indian BEML to jointly develop a light tank.
9. As for Indian investment in Poland, probably the most famous case is that of Lakshmi Narayan Mittal’s company (which is now ArcelorMittal after it merged with the European company of the former name). In 2004 it bought steel plants in Warsaw, Cracow, Sosnowiec, Świętochłowice, and Dąbrowa Górnicza. In 2005 Videocon bought a television set manufacturing unit in Piaseczno near Warsaw but it closed down after few years. Two Indian companies established their factories in the Kostrzyń-Słubice Special Economic Zone. The first one is Essel Propack (a part of the Essel Group) which is running a laminated tubes factory, and the second Novo Tech, which produces polymer products. In 2012 UFLEX started running a plastic wrap factory in Września. Punj Lloyd took part in constructing the A-5 highway. Some recent examples of acquirements of companies based in Poland, or of their stakes, were the work of Berger Paints India (in the external insulation finishing system market), Escorts (in tractor production), Indorama (PET packages), Lambda Therapeutics Research (stakes purchased in a clinical centre in Warsaw), Tata Global Beverages (in the tea market), VVF (acquiring of a soap factory) and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals (taking over seven pharmaceutical brands in Poland). Apart from these examples, India’s main investment in Poland occurred in the IT and BPO sectors. These include: Zensar Technologies Limited in Gdańsk, Tata Consultancy Service and HCL in Cracow, Wipro, KPIT-Infosystems, GE Money and Genpact in Wrocław and Infosys in Łódź.
10. Shooting movies in Poland has become a way of promoting our country as a tourist destination, and therefore could yield some economic results in a longer perspective. The first Indian movie to be shot partially in Poland was Kajol and Aamir Khan-starred Fanaa, where the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir were in reality the Polish region of Podhale. In Aazaan, Cracow played itself and became a target of a terrorist attack in the plot. Two song sequences for a Tamil movie entitled Saguni were also shot in Cracow and three other locations in Poland. The Polish Tourism Organisation (Polska Organizacja Turystyczna) was instrumental in wooing Indian producers to Poland. Its recent success was roping in the producers of Salman Khan-starred Kick, which became the seventh Indian fiction movie to be shot partially in Poland and the first one to be shot in Warsaw. The next one will be Bangistan. Recently Indian companies often asked Polish advertisement producers for postproduction. The most famous case of a commercial actually shot in Poland was a perfume advertisement for which Katrina Kaif, a Bollywood star, was brought to Cracow and the Juliusz Słowacki Theater was the venue. Film Polska Productions took part in some of the most important Indian projects of this kind in Poland, including Kick and the commercial with Katrina Kaif.
11. Once we dig deeper into Indo-Polish economic relations, me find much more amusing histories. While some of them might not be so important to the overall volume of trade between the two nations, they serve as symbols of people-to-people connections. In a backpacker-dominated area of Delhi’s Paharganj one can find a hotel called Hari Piorko. Its Indian owner reportedly used to sell pens in Poland (hence his nickname and the name of the hotel – Piorko – which is actually Polish piórko, ‘small pen’). Further along Paharganj’s main street (Main Bazaar), one used to find a shop that belonged to a Polish owner. Many Indian restaurants operate both in Warsaw and Poland as a whole. Poles and Indians, as well as Polish, Indian and joint companies, have formed two important chambers – Indo-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Polsko-Indyjska Izba Gospodarcza (Polish-Indian Chamber of Commerce).
12. Near future certainly offers many chances of enhancing Indo-Polish economic relations. On its path of development India has to radically upgrade its infrastructure, solve the problem of energy deficit (taping, among others, alternative sources of energy) and food deficit (strengthening agriculture and introducing the technology of freezing food and transporting it). Polish products and Polish technological abilities might prove useful in many of these fields. It might often happen that Poles will be able to provide the technological thinking, but not the finances, so joint ventures may be the need of the hour. We should also look at Indo-Polish relations from a broader, regional perspective. In 2004 an expert on India’s foreign relations, C. Raja Mohan, wrote in The Hindu that Poland could be India’s springboard to enter other markets in the region: the Baltic states, Ukraine, Belarus and Slovakia. In 2010 the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on his visit to India played a similar tune saying that Poland ‘is India’s open gate to Europe’. A move towards this regional approach was a recent India-Central Europe Business Forum, held in New Delhi in March 2014, where representatives of many East-Central European countries were present. This could be a move in the right direction. Even geography suggests that with its size, India needs to cooperate with many European countries to strengthen its trade and development. East-Central European countries could partially enhance their ties with India on a common platform, through means such as conferences and fora where various nations would put forward their offer, and Poland could serve as an important meeting ground in this process.